Revelation: Eyes To See

How does God speak to you? What spiritual language does the Holy Spirit use to bring his revelation to you?

We can perceive the great unveiling in many different ways; we are each uniquely designed to catch the flow of the Spirit and tune in to God’s voice. One of the most common ways is through ‘seeing’, when God communicates to us through the visual dimension of the prophetic, whether it’s a simple internal picture or an ‘open-eyed’ vision.

Prophetic seeing is usually an internal process, and we perceive the content through our ‘mind’s eye’. This may be a simple, still image or it could be a moving picture like a scene from a movie. Sometimes it will be very hazy, as if we have just glimpsed something out of the corner of our eye; at other times it may be incredibly sharp and detailed. Sometimes the picture will come to us fully formed, at other times it may emerge slowly. I often have the experience of a prophetic picture slowly coming into focus, as if I were trying to focus on something through a camera lens. What I’ve learnt over the years is that I must resist the urge to dismiss the revelation at the partially formed stage because it doesn’t make sense. Rather I need to stay in a place of receptivity, patiently waiting for the picture to fully emerge.

Another important principle that God has taught me about the visual dimension of prophecy is that pictures and visions are an invitation to a conversation: they should be a relational, not functional, experience. In fact they are doorways to an encounter with God. If the Holy Spirit gives you a prophetic picture, see it as an opportunity to meet him and go deeper with him, rather than a puzzle to be solved. There is a real joy to be found in exploring prophetic pictures and visions with the Holy Spirit. Let him take you by the hand and go on a journey of discovery into all that you are seeing. Focus in on some details and ask him questions. Enjoy simply dwelling in the revelation a while.

The subject of how to interpret prophetic pictures and visions is an important one. It’s helpful to think in terms of two broad categories of visual revelation (though there is often overlap between them):

Metaphorical language  This is when God uses pictures symbolically to communicate truth to us. An example of this would be receiving a prophetic picture of a bunch of flowers because God wants you to know that he loves you.

Seeing into a different reality  This is when God opens our spiritual eyes so that we see something of the invisible realm of the Spirit. An example of this would be seeing an angel or having a vision of God’s throne in heaven.

Interpretation is a very important aspect of the first category. It’s all too easy to jump to conclusions and attach our own interpretations to prophetic pictures, rather than having the discipline of asking the Holy Spirit what he is saying to us. For many prophetic people, receiving the visual revelation is the easy part; the challenge is discerning the right interpretation. We should always ask the Lord for an interpretation to revelation he gives us, and be content to wait patiently if it doesn’t come straight away.

When we think about the second category of visual revelation it’s good to remember Paul’s encouragement to us in 2 Corinthians 4:18:

  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Bible speaks to us of two worlds: the physical, material world and the spiritual world, and as Christians we need to be engaging with both realities. To perceive the spiritual dimension of God’s kingdom requires eyes of faith and expectation. There are many biblical accounts of people being shown aspects of the spiritual realm, such Elisha and his servant seeing the heavenly army in 2 Kings 6:17, and the many encounters with angels described throughout scripture. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and John all had visions of God on his throne in heaven (with many similar details). Paul even writes about being caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Ezekiel had a series of remarkable visions and heavenly encounters, and does his best to describe the indescribable:

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it I fell face down… Ezekiel 1:28

But we too can be expectant for glimpses of the realm of glory. We can start by simply asking God for them, and then meditating on passages of scripture that describe visions of God, Jesus and heaven. Setting aside time to prayerfully contemplate John’s visionary description of Jesus in Revelation 1 is a great place to start. Worship too provides a wonderful context for opening the eyes of our hearts to the reality of God’s kingdom and the realm of the Spirit. The next time you are in a time of corporate worship, ask the Lord to give you a fresh revelation of his glory. Ask him to show you what is happening in heaven right now.

So far we’ve largely been talking about seeing with our ‘inner eye’ or with spiritual sight, but of course God can talk to us through the things we observe with our physical eyes. He loves to speak through the ordinary and everyday, especially through the beauty of the natural world. We just need to slow down enough so that we can properly pay attention and look.

However we see the things of God, whether it’s internal or external, what is key is that we are paying attention. God is the great Communicator, but to tune in to his revelation requires us to be active and alert, to be practiced observers – ready to peer in whenever the veil is drawn back. We need to have eyes to see.

 

 

 

 

Inquire of the Lord

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him… (1 Samuel 23:4)

When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritualists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? (Isaiah 8:19)

 

The Lord makes it pretty clear throughout scripture that we are to inquire of him – for him to be our first port of call with a query, our first line of inquiry. If you are anything like me, I’m sure you make time to inquire of the Lord with the big decisions in life – those times when we have no choice but to stop at a major crossroads and try and work out which way to go. And yet for many of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, our day-to-day reality shows little practical application of this biblical principle. Is it because we are just too busy and preoccupied? Or somewhat nervous about what answer we might get back?

In recent months God has been challenging me to regularly inquire of him in the midst of the many daily decisions I am making – to take the time to pause and seek him for the next step and right call, rather than just trusting in a general sense of, “Well, this feels ok so I’ll go with.”

There is a practical outworking to this call to regularly inquire of God, and we’ve looked at the subject of asking God questions in a previous blog. But the oft-repeated phrase inquire of the Lord also raises deeper issues, and in this blog I want to dig a bit further and look at some fundamental issues of the heart.

The key question the phrase inquire of the Lord generates in my own discipleship journey is:

Am I surrended to God to the extent that I’m prepared to ask him any question about my life, and listen for the answer?

Am I prepared to ask God what his opinion is of my relationships, marriage, ministry and call? Am I ready to inquire of him regarding any sin he sees in my life? Am I willing to ask him what I can do for him every day rather than simply asking him to bless my plans? Am I ready to ask him what he really thinks about my world-view and political opinions?

At its heart, the biblical principle of inquiring of the Lord is less about decision-making and more about submission. It challenges us to examine our heart posture towards God: our motivations, our focus, and our priorities. It requires us to ask ourselves who really is on the throne of our lives.

If there is something in us that resists the call to inquire of the Lord, is this because we have not fully submitted our lives to him? That we’ve given him a certain level of access to our lives without the Access All Areas that he really demands?

The Old Testament prophets frequently hold up a mirror to us with which to examine our hearts. They present a unfavourable description of those to be judged for their sins, but in these black and white pronouncements we often find windows into our own souls. I read this verse in Isaiah the other day and just couldn’t get past it:

Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. (Isaiah 3:8)

To defy God’s glorious presence – to turn our backs on the Lord of Glory – is the very essence of the sin of pride. To defy God’s presence means to openly resist him, to refuse to obey, instead of yielding and surrendering to his light, truth and fiery love. And to maintain a posture of inquiring of the Lord requires us to yield and surrender to him on a daily basis.

I know that I’m not actively and consciously defying God, but reading this verse caused me to examine my heart and consider all the ways I may slightly and subtlety defy him without even really noticing it. What am I hiding from him? Where am I quietly but stubbornly sticking to my plans and my agendas?

We know that in God’s glorious presence there is complete truth and purest light. There is infinite wisdom and relentless love. As his beloved children we are welcome here every day of our lives; but when we stand in this place we must lay aside every one of our own agendas and opinions and surrender every part of our lives to him.

It’s as we engage in the process of surrender that we are best placed to hear God’s voice and receive his revelation. God looks for those who are seeking him, and he can be found by those who seek him with all their heart. Humility is vital for accessing the truth he reveals to us. A humble and submitted heart will easily connect with God’s voice.

As you go about your day today, I’d encourage you to have moments when you pause, reconnect with the Father, and humbly ask his opinion about whatever it is you are doing. Choose to lean a little less on your own understanding….

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding;

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

When Prophets are the Enemy of the Prophetic

In last month’s blog Chris Wanstall shared some of the things she’s has learnt about pursuing maturity in prophecy and finding healthy ways to communicate what God puts on our hearts. This month’s blog follows a similar theme as we consider the dangers that an immature prophetic ministry can bring.

The New Testament is pretty clear: prophecy is a gift for all God’s children. A gift to be eagerly desired, that brings enormous blessing as it connects people to the Father’s heart. Over the years I’ve seen the potential of prophetic ministry to bring encouragement, hope and freedom to countless people. And I’ve seen the joy that comes when we realise that we can all join in: it’s not an exclusive gift for a mysterious elite, but a dispensation of grace that the Holy Spirit pours out abundantly. We can all use this gift and be channels of God’s love as we seek His heart for everyone we meet. A healthy prophetic culture is one where there is an active understanding that prophetic revelation is available to all.

So it’s a sobering thought that often the biggest barriers to releasing a healthy prophetic culture are the prophets themselves. All too often the thing that stops people engaging with the gift of prophecy is the immaturity and unhelpful behaviour of prophetic people. By ‘prophet’ I mean the New Testament ‘five-fold-ministry’ prophet that Paul writes about in Ephesians 4: that section of the church who have a particular calling to help the church hear God’s voice. Jesus has given certain ministries or callings to the church, distributing them among all the people as He sees fit. God has made each one of us to fit a certain place where we can serve Him best. These five ministries are given so that the whole body of Christ might grow and mature, that we might live out the unity Paul describes at the beginning of the chapter. That we would become the people Jesus intended us to be.

We get a little glimpse of the mature New Testament prophet from this verse in Acts 15:32:

    “Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to strengthen and         encourage the believers.”

This is a great snapshot of what the prophets were up to in the early church: they were channels of God’s strength and encouragement. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 14:3, when we prophesy we speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. I would have loved the opportunity to hang out with Judas and Silas and be a recipient of their wonderful ministry.

Alongside bringing prophecies and speaking encouragement, the primary role of the New Testament prophet is to help other people hear God for themselves. Mature prophets do this by laying down their own agendas, and the desire to go it alone, and instead focus on investing in others. They find ways to effectively multiply their ministry and allow others to imitate them. They give people a framework to climb on and an invitation to come and join in.

A mature prophet has a key role to play in establishing a healthy prophetic culture in their church. Their heart will be set on edifying the body by encouraging others to step out and listen to God, and they will model a humble, accountable and community-focused approach to the gift. In fact they will model it in such a way that it’s infectious – people will eagerly desire prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1) because they see the fruit of the gift in the mature prophet’s life.

But all too often we see the opposite dynamic happening – immature prophets that actually put people off prophecy. And this is how it happens:  

  • By their attitude and language they imply that this gift is exclusively theirs. Their inability to convey their prophetic experiences in normal, accessible language means it appears unattainable for the rest of the church.
  • Their stubborn independence leads to a lack of accountability and submission. They won’t engage with discipleship and they won’t embrace the common vision of their church family. They end up being a critical voice on the edge of church, quick to point out every problem they see.
  • Their lack of rootedness in community and their avoidance of accountability means they quickly rush into acting on whatever they think God is telling them to do, without the discipline of properly weighing and testing their word with others.
  • Their tendency to speak judgement rather than mercy creates a culture of fear.
  • Because their identity is so caught up in their prophetic ministry, if their prophecies are rejected they feel personally rejected. Anyone who questions their actions or words gets accused of quenching the Spirit.
  • Their lack of humility and grace means they demand to be listened and responded to, becoming frustrated when leaders don’t immediately act on the revelation they bring.

No wonder the response of so many church leaders is to shut down or tightly control any expression of prophetic ministry. No wonder so many church members avoid an active engagement with prophecy.

There is a spiritual battle going on. Prophecy is a wonderful and powerful gift that God has given His church but the enemy hates it and does all he can to twist and distort it . I’m aware of a number of situations at the moment where the desire of churches to develop a healthy and mature prophetic culture is being jeopardised by the attitude and actions of immature and unaccountable prophets. Of course this is exactly what the devil wants.

For those of us who are ‘prophet-shaped’ and long to see prophecy welcomed in our churches, here are some hints on how to be a help rather than a hindrance:

  • Remember: it’s not about you and your ‘gifting’ or ‘anointing’ – rather the focus needs to be on how you can help others hear God for themselves.
  • Actively seek out accountability. Find a safe place of accountability where you can be transparent about your life and ministry.
  • Cultivate a servant heart; read Philippians 2.
  • Get some training on how to communicate your ideas with humility and grace.
  • Look for creative ways to bless your leaders with your prophetic gift.
  • Don’t be weird or super spiritual – aim to be as normal as possible.
  • Hang out with apostles, evangelists, teachers and pastors. Choose to learn from them and their perspectives.
  • Follow in Judas and Silas’ footsteps and seek to say much to encourage and strengthen believers – all the time!

Let us heed these words from 1 Peter 4:10:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…”

The Father’s Work

In John chapter 5 we are given an insight into Jesus’ modus operandi, the basis of his ministry: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19)

This extraordinary statement comes after Jesus had done something that he wasn’t supposed to have done – at least by the strict standards imposed by the Pharisees. He had healed a man who had been disabled for 38 years, but healed him on a Sabbath: So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. (John 5:16)

And it’s after this that Jesus, perhaps as way of explanation, describes his singular approach to ministry. His Father is always at work, reaching people, loving people, healing people; and Jesus chooses to be the physical expression of the Father’s good works, working in perfect harmony with heaven’s purposes. He sees what God is doing and joins in. It’s that simple.

Of all the desperate and broken people that were gathered around the Pool of Bethesda that day, Jesus was able to perceive that there was one on whom God’s eyes were intently resting. Jesus had eyes so focussed on his Father, and a heart so committed to doing his Father’s will, that he was able to step into that moment of supernatural Kingdom potential, and a man’s life was utterly transformed. Heaven’s healing power invaded earthly reality because Jesus could see where God was at work that day.

“I only do what I see my Father doing.”

What might it look like for us to start following and imitating Jesus in his approach to life and ministry? As disciples of Jesus we are invited into the same way of working and living that he had. We are called to follow him and his ways. So even if it might at first seem unattainable, Jesus wants us to follow his example and model our lives on his.

Our starting point is always, that, as God’s beloved children we are rooted in covenantal relationship with him. We don’t have to strive to see and hear him. We have access to his presence at all times. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, has been poured out upon us and he delights to reveal God’s heart and purposes to us (John 16:14, 1 Corinthians 2:9-11).

But to develop a lifestyle of seeing and partnering with the work of the Father requires active participation. To join in with God’s story we need to be intentionally looking: seeking him out with faith and expectancy. For most of us this requires us to change our way of thinking, to cultivate a new posture and mindset. We have to practice!

 

In a recent coaching huddle that I was leading (for more details of huddles see here) we spent time reflecting on how we could begin to imitate Jesus and intentionally live from a place of joining in with whatever the Father is doing. I’m delighted to share with you the testimonies of Donna and Marilyn from Louisiana and their experiences:

 

Marilyn: After our huddle I started asking the Lord every day, “What is it that you want me to see in this day? What are you doing that is of you, Lord? Help me to see you as I go about my day.”

On the first day of starting out with these words, I decided to go by this embroidery shop (it was not part of my plan when I left the house). I arrived at this shop 15 minutes before it opened and decided I didn’t mind waiting, as it would give me time with God as I waited.

Once in the shop I was talking with the young woman about some designs and during our conversation I learned her father had passed away and she used to have a good relationship with him but before he died their relationship had soured. She didn’t have her mother anymore due to drug abuse for as long as she has known her. This young woman had married a man who was addicted to heroine and alcohol. She had 3 young boys. Dealing with all of this had become overwhelming to her. She was crying and said “I don’t know why I am sharing this with you. I don’t cry easy and I never talk about this to anyone.”

I proceeded to talk to her about leaning on God’s word and love. She said she didn’t go to church but talked to Jesus daily. I shared that I knew it was no accident that we met and our conversation went in the direction that it did. It was our Heavenly Father’s plan.  She agreed. I really stressed to her that she needed to hang on to God in her life and, no matter what, to not let go. “In his time he will see you through this,” I encouraged her.

It was a wonderful experience and I plan to see more of this young lady. She knows I am praying for her and her family.  I was on such a high as I left there knowing that God had spoken very clearly to me and to her on this day. Praises!!!!! I love asking him, “What are you up to today?” more that ever before.

 

Donna: My husband and I went to Jazz Fest last month. I had done a huddle earlier that morning where we were challenged to ask Abba Father to show us what he was doing and have us join in with him, which I shared with Larry on the drive into the city. When we go out I normally let my husband do all the talking and just hang out at his side (being an introvert), but that didn’t happen this day.

Part of our Jazz Fest passes included access to the Miller Beer Tent, a private area where you could escape from the big crowd. So after visiting the Gospel Tent we made our way to the Miller Tent to relax. I turned to Larry and told him, “Now would be a great time to ask the Father that question.” “Here?!” he asked. “Why not?” I replied. And so I did and started intentionally looking for the Father’s response. I was not disappointed.

Very soon I felt God draw my attention to a young woman following an older man, both wearing clean-up crew t-shirts. They were walking to the back area, heads down, separate from everyone else. Throughout the day she came into my awareness repeatedly. I noticed how discrete they were in the crowd, and she was always following him.

Larry and I chose the bar located at the very back to use our free drink tickets at. Two young women attended it all day and we easily formed friendly connections with them both (I was more chatty with them than Larry – way out of my normal behavior). We never went to a different bar and would revisit them each time we ventured back to the Miller Tent. Visiting with them became fun for me and for them.

When Larry and I were outside the Miller Tent, the crowd was very big. Thousands of people were milling around the many booths, music tents, food row – it can be intense for an introvert but not this day. Holy Spirit prompted me many times to speak to strangers in my path. One was a cute young girl wearing an eclectic top. “Tell her she looks good in that blouse,” I was prompted, and so I did as I passed her. She beamed with pleasure and thanked me. “Ask him what his food choice is,” I heard, so I did. The young man told me and out of my mouth a reply of, “Oh that’s awesome! It must be delish!” He beamed and said it was. Many times this happened in many different ways and scenarios. Each time I just ‘knew’ that Holy Spirit did ‘something’ in their hearts. I didn’t have to know what it was. I just kept going and I was soaring high with him.

Later in the afternoon, Larry and I ate at a table near the back bar. As we finished, the clean-up crew of two came walking our way and I was acutely aware of them. The man was at my side to pass me when it all went into slow motion. I looked at the young woman, and she at me as my hand went upward toward her. Her hand immediately reached toward mine and fitted right into my hand. I told her, “Thank you,” with great feeling. Her face lit up with the most beautiful smile, her eyes very bright, and she mumbled a response that I think was, “You’re welcome.” She had not slowed her stride and was passing me, our hands still together. As she moved out of my reach, our hands slid apart and our eyes slowing turned away from each other. It was very crowded all around us, and very noisy (Larry and I had been having to lean in to talk and listen to each other), but Holy Spirit had done something and I was very aware of that. That was the last time I saw her that day.

Right after that moment, I clearly heard God say to me, “Those girls [the bartenders] have not had a break or anything to eat today,” and I knew I could get them some refreshment. I immediately got up, went to the bar and asked if they had had a break or any lunch. They both told me no, no, they don’t get breaks and would eat after they got off that night. So I told them that I wanted to get them something to eat. They kept insisting that I didn’t have to do that, they would be fine, but I eventually persuaded them and went off to get them some strawberry shortcake. Amazingly there was no queue at the shortcake booth and I quickly bought two. When I arrived back at the bar the two young women were astonished. One of them exclaimed three times how she couldn’t believe I came ‘right back’. I left them with their treats knowing Holy Spirit had just done something.

I cannot describe the spiritual high of that day and the hunger to live every day like it. It hasn’t happened exactly like that again, but I do ask Abba Father the question, “Show me what you are doing and how I can join in,” every day now.

Going Slow

Going Slow

“Slow down, you move too fast…” sang Simon and Garfunkel rather a long time ago. The Spirit has been whispering a similar refrain to me recently.

I know it’s become a cliché but the pace of modern life is extraordinary. Instant communication around the world, homes full of the latest technology, 24-7 everything. Perhaps that’s why I like gardening so much because you have to slow down and go at nature’s pace for once, with lots of patient waiting for things to happen.

When we’re going too fast our spiritual well-being is jeopardised by a shallow engagement with the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29 The Message). We lose the ability to still our hearts and minds and fully encounter God’s presence (Psalm 46:10). We fail to heed the gentle whisper of the Lover of our souls (1 Kings 19:12).

A few years ago I came across a quote that has stuck with me and still challenges me:

                “You know what sin is? It’s not paying attention.”

Now, at this point I don’t want to get into a theological discussion about the nature of sin. But I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. Our failure to pay attention to God, and our failure to pay attention to our neighbour, will stifle our ability to follow the two greatest commandments. And the more we rush through life, filling our days with activity, the harder it is to really pay attention.

To grow in our ability to hear God’s voice, and to develop a God-conscious existence, we have to take on the discipline of slowing down a bit. I know in my own life that I have many days when I’m rushing too much from activity to activity, and it’s only when I get to bedtime that I realise that I haven’t heard God that day. And it’s not because God isn’t speaking. I’ve just been too busy and unfocused to pay attention to what he’s saying to me.

I recognise that for most of us this is a real challenge. But how tragic if the reality of our lives is that we don’t have time to listen to God. What are we missing because we’re not paying attention?

Most of the time God speaks in whispers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t tend to shout revelation; rather he chooses to speak in the still, small voice and in fleeting impressions. He speaks in the kind of voice where we have to lean in, get close, and pay attention. It’s the voice of the tender Father rather than a sergeant major. A voice that is easy to miss if we’re going too fast. But if we slow down enough we find a voice of clarity, kindness and breathtaking beauty.

In John 10 we are presented with a simple yet profound picture of how our relationship with Jesus is supposed to work. It’s not complicated: he is our Good Shepherd and we are his precious sheep. We know – and listen to – his voice, and we follow him. This imagery of a shepherd with his sheep reminds us that following Jesus should fundamentally be about a simplicity of lifestyle and a gentle pace: sheep don’t tend to be manically busy.

And to properly tune in to God’s voice we need to choose a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity – that it’s really worth slowing down to listen – because there is so much God wants to show us. We should remind ourselves every day that the Kingdom is indeed at hand, that the Holy Spirit has very much been poured out upon us, that the spiritual realm is in fact the superior reality.

To really grow in the prophetic – to grow in our ability to hear and see things of the Spirit – we have to slow down. We have to embrace a lifestyle of going slow enough to hear, of re-ordering our priorities, of staying attuned and in synch.

I’ll finish with a few simple suggestions of how we can begin to break the habit of going too fast. Why don’t you choose one of these and have a go over the next few days?

  • Put some reminders on your phone throughout the day to stop for a couple of minutes and engage with God’s loving presence. Welcome the Holy Spirit and ask him to show you what he’s doing in the world around you.
  • Find 10 minutes every day to connect with God through nature and to marvel at the wonder of his creation. For example, time in your garden or a local park; looking at the stars; getting out into the countryside.
  • Do something that intentionally slows you down, like walking to work one day a week, and use that time to pray through the Lord’s Prayer or pray in tongues.
  • When you arrive somewhere by car, spend 2 minutes sitting in stillness and listening before you get out and get on with your day.
  • Go to your favourite coffee shop and enjoy Jesus’ presence as you read your Bible.

Cutting Carrots

Our blog this month  is written by Cassi Frank, who is part of the Accessible Prophecy US team.

 

Ever hear from God through carrots? Yeah, me neither. Until last week.

Lately I’ve been frustrated. I’ve spent the majority of my Christian walk trying to engage with God and recognize his voice more confidently.  I long for the ability to easily share what He is saying to me. I want to see Him working in whatever context I’m in.  And I hope to tell stories about adventures and encounters that have no other explanation than following where the Spirit is leading.

I also am a recovering perfectionist with a very developed skill of comparison.  I’ve spent the last several years pursuing help and coaching specifically in hearing God’s voice for myself and others.  It’s been a blast getting to know the Holy Spirit, starting to recognize His voice and seeing ways that he has shown up by putting me in the midst of a few of the kind of stories that can only be explained by the Spirit’s leading.  But, I can be extremely critical of myself when I see people around me seeming to sprint past without appearing out of breath.

I’ve got plenty of challenges and faults to prevent me from hearing God. I’m an expert at striving and planning ways to convince the Holy Spirit to show up on my terms.  I’ve created calendars to practice listening for a word of encouragement for different people on different days of the week.  I’ve gone shopping with the intent of hearing how He wants me to pray for passing strangers. While there is nothing wrong with those kinds of practices, so often, my attitude is about asking the Holy Spirit to enter my life, my workplace, my family, or my plans for how I want to grow in hearing Him.

But now I have this new tension. I’m a new mom. I LOVE being a mom.  I have learned so much in such a short time.  I also love reflection, contemplation, and quietly sitting with God.  There hasn’t been much of that in this new season, so I’ve been frantically searching in the spare moments for new ways of hearing Him for myself and others.

Recently, I stumbled upon a facebook group that focuses on helping make the ordinary days something more important, something sacred. Since I seem to be looking forward to many years of ordinary days and fewer times of quiet reflection, I jumped in. Through this group and the resources many people have shared, I’ve been learning about the liturgical church year.  Learning that there are seasons beyond Advent and Lent have been intriguing as it was not a part of my faith background.

As I’ve been learning about this new perspective my ordinary days have started to change because of this idea: the liturgical year is about Remembering you are stepping into God’s story.

Cue the carrots.

This idea of stepping into God’s story is coming to mind at various times throughout my week.  This week, it happened to be while I was peeling carrots.  Peeling a full 5lbs of carrots meant I had plenty of time to think about how much I wanted to be doing something (anything!) else.  Since God’s story is happening all around us, I decided to ask the Spirit what he was up to here, in my house, with my son sitting a few feet away playing, and no other person in sight capable of intelligent conversation.  I didn’t expect a response. However, the Spirit began comparing me to a carrot…

Some of the carrots I was peeling were long, narrow and flimsy.  Some were short, fat and strong.  Some were twisted, branched, swerving and unbalanced.  In His grace, the Spirit spoke to me about the value of my gifts and my journey in terms of these carrots.  In my striving, I had been trying to force my way into being the biggest and best, tallest and strongest, fastest growing and perfectly symmetrical carrot.  But the Spirit brought my attention to a different kind of carrot.

In that moment, he was encouraging me in the value of a slow, strong, consistent faith.  Like the shorter, wider, stronger carrots, it is not easily set off course; it is not moved by obstacles in the soil; it does not have flailing branches that lose time and energy by shooting off in the wrong direction. I may feel like I’m growing so slowly in hearing His voice, but really he is building and growing a strong foundation that cannot easily be redirected.  As I realized what was happening, I had to laugh out loud.  I thanked Him for using such a simple vegetable to get my attention and for teaching me about His story.

Because of this new encouragement from our Father out of such an ordinary, insignificant activity, I’m continuing to look at the world around me, asking Him “what is happening in your story right here, right now?”  It’s changing my perspective and helping me to focus on what He’s doing instead of how I want to grow in my listening prayers.  It’s helping me to actively show that I believe God is present and active in every moment whether it involves me or not. It is opening my eyes to his Lordship by helping me acknowledge he is in charge and it’s His story, not mine.

There’s one more thing about carrots.  You never know what they look like until you pull them out of the ground. We don’t get to see them fight against hard soil or work their way between buried rocks. All the growth happens in the dark, under the ground, before we see the finished product.  It is only after the growth has happened that we can see the results. By speaking to me through carrots and reminding me I have a chance to step into God’s Story, He’s showing me the importance of trusting His context instead of forcing my own. Just as the soil directs the growth of a carrot, growing in the context of God’s story gives direction to my growth, meaning to what I hear (even in ordinary things) and has the potential to make my sharing of those words more powerful than if I insist on growing on my own terms.

My growth in listening over the last several years hasn’t been on my own.  The ministry of Accessible Prophecy has been invaluable.  Its challenged me to confront my own obstacles in listening and its encouraged me to persevere with others in learning to recognize our Father’s voice. 

Hearing God for our Churches

What does a listening church look like? How can we hear God together for our churches? God loves every local expression of the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit desires to reveal to us the heart and intentions of the Father so that together we can step into his Kingdom purposes. The gift of prophecy is not just for individuals, and a mature expression of the ministry will involve corporate hearing and responding. A healthy prophetic culture is one in which people have a shared vision of what God is calling them to as a church.

The second and third chapters of the book of Revelation are made up of Jesus’ words to the seven churches in Asia Minor and give an interesting perspective on what God’s word looks like when directed to a church rather than an individual. Each of these letters starts with an expression of the nature and character of Christ, then a specific commendation, followed by a complaint, correction and conclusion. Each letter is precise and to the point. Can we hear God as clearly as that for our churches? Do we know the particular revelation of his nature that Jesus wants us to take hold of in this season? Can we hear his words of affirmation and correction? Can we state with confidence, “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand….”?

It’s important for every church to know the call of God. Proverbs 29:18 warns that without prophetic vision the people of God perish. Every church needs eyes to see and ears to hear: to discern the bigger picture of God’s intention for us as a body and where he is calling us.

Hearing

Whenever we come together in worship and fellowship there are opportunities to hear the corporate ‘now’ word from the Lord. We simply need to create the space and expectation, and get in the habit of saying, “Let’s just pause for a few minutes and listen to what God is saying to us.” An obvious place to do this is in our Sunday services, but we can do this whenever we are gathered together.

A number of years ago, at my church in Sheffield, we set up a Prophetic Council that has been a very helpful way of discerning what God is saying to us as a church. The Council is made up of a number of mature Christians who have a good track record of bringing accurate prophecies to the church and have a heart to serve the leadership. We meet 6 times a year: each time we meet we share what we think God is saying to the church and city, and then seek to discern, weigh and sharpen God’s rhema word. We then submit these words to the church leadership team.

Other churches I know have set up Listening Groups as a way of encouraging people to hear God together. These are open to everyone who wants to come, and usually follow a simple pattern of worship, basic teaching on hearing God’s voice, and then space to listen. They provide a positive context to pursue God’s heart and intention for his church, and everyone is encouraged that they can listen and contribute.

Recording

If we are serious about hearing God for our churches then we have to be intentional about recording prophecies. God’s voice is incredibly precious, but how do we ensure we keep a proper record of what he is saying to us?

At my church we’ve got files that go back years: we’ve done our best to keep a copy of every prophecy that has been given to our church. We also have a book that is available at Sunday services to record prophecies that are shared. Having everything written down enables us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and track the themes that emerge over time. We find confirmation for prophecies when we realise that the same word has come from different people over a period of time.

Weighing

The New Testament makes it very clear that prophecy has to be weighed and tested:

     Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.                    1 Corinthians 14:29

Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.                                           1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

Most prophecies we hear and speak will not be 100% accurate and infallible. Some may come very close, but at the end of the day it’s still a human vessel trying to communicate the very mind of God using contemporary language, and we will always need a healthy dose of realism and humility to properly discern what God is actually saying.

Weighing is a very important part of the whole process of hearing what God is saying to our churches. At my church we have encouraged our missional communities to weigh corporate prophecies by discussion, prayer and asking the Holy Spirit for his discernment. Our leadership team also take the process of weighing prophecies seriously. The key question when we weigh significant prophecies is, “Does this word find confirmation in scripture, in our community of faith, and in the witness of the Holy Spirit?”

 Communication

This is probably stating the obvious, but if we’re going to hear God’s voice together then we need to be good at communication. It’s vital that both the church leaders and the intercessors know what the prophets are discerning at any time, but we also need effective channels of communication so that the whole church knows what God is saying in a particular season. Sometimes the greatest gift to a prophetic team is someone who is really good at administration and can take on the role of ensuring good communication. Notice boards and newsletters are great places to share key prophecies.

Responding

The final part of the process, and in many ways the most important, is responding together to God’s spoken word: “If this is what God is saying to us, then what are we going to do about it?”

When God speaks to us he speaks for a purpose and he looks for a response. There is a profound intentionality to God’s spoken words to us; we have to beware a casual attitude to them. We need to be active responders rather than passive receivers.

An incredible helpful framework for processing the prophetic is understanding that there are three parts to any prophecy: Revelation (the picture, word, or dream given to the person by God); Interpretation (“What does it mean?”); and Application (“What are we going to do about it?”) All three parts are equally important, and a mature prophetic culture is one where emphasis and training is applied to all three. Revelation may come from just one person, but the application of prophecy has to be discerned within a context of community and usually requires input from people who are gifted in strategy.

Once we all know what God is saying to us as a church, then wise and strategic leaders can release the Body to step out in faith and obey God’s voice. There is so much God wants to say to his church: let’s be hearers – and do-ers – of his word. Together!

 

The Road of the Holy Spirit

In February I was fortunate to have a weekend in the beautiful city of Lisbon (celebrating a big birthday!) and as my husband and I enjoyed wandering around the old streets near the castle we came upon this road sign:Seeing those words painted onto the ancient stone wall was for me a visible sign of something very precious and close to my heart. The Road of the Holy Spirit. As I paused a while to think about the words they brought both comfort and challenge. Yes, this is the road I’ve chosen for my life, and it’s wonderful; but how many times do I wander off it?

This street sign is a great visual reminder of Paul’s instruction to us in Galations 5:16-26, particularly verse 25:

                      Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 There is an active dynamic to this verse. To keep in step with someone means we walk closely to them, paying careful attention to what they are doing and where they are going. We go at their pace. We follow their lead. We walk the same road.

Every disciple of Jesus has been given the Holy Spirit. One of the incredible truths of the New Covenant we live under is that God has poured out his Spirit upon us. As Jesus expresses it in John 7:38-39:

“Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

 The Spirit of Almighty God lives in me! What a wonderful truth! But life in the Spirit is more than just knowing his in-dwelling presence; it’s about an active, daily decision to walk the same road as him, wherever that may lead. So how are we to follow this road? How do we ensure the Spirit is leading us, step by step?

Over the last few years I’ve intentionally set out to explore ‘The Road of the Holy Spirit’. Here are 4 simple things I’ve learnt and some practical steps we can take:

  1. Get to know the Spirit as a real person and friend

How well do you really know the Holy Spirit?

He’s not an ‘it’; he’s not an impersonal force or power or influence. He’s a person, part of the Trinity with the Father and the Son, with his own personality and attributes.

It’s so important that we don’t treat him as a utility rather than a real person, asking for some heat or power or refreshment when we need it in ministry but ignoring him the rest of the time. He’s a person – he’s God – he’s God with us. That’s why Jesus could say to his disciples in John 16:

   “It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t the friend won’t come. But if I go I’ll send him to you.”  [The Message]

How do we get to know someone? We talk to them, we have conversations with them, we dialogue as friends. God wants us to know his Spirit to the degree that we know our closest friend:

“But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:17

We can welcome the Holy Spirit into our day every morning and honour his presence in our lives continually.

A practical step: Tell the Holy Spirit that you want to get to know him better and start to ask him questions about what things are bringing him joy today.

  1. Pay attention

The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives and in the world around us. He is also continually bringing revelation to us. The problem is that most of us are just not very good at paying attention to what he’s up to. We get so preoccupied with all the ‘stuff’ of life that we lose the ability to see the incredible beauty of the Spirit’s words and works and the opportunities he frequently offers us.

So to keep in step with the Spirit we have to reorder our priorities and actually slow down enough so that we are attuned to his voice and promptings. The Spirit rarely shouts at us; in fact learning to walk his road means cultivating an internal stillness so that we can recognise his voice and hear his whispers. But wonderful adventures start to open up as we discern those subtle promptings and choose to respond to them.

A practical step: put some reminders on your phone throughout the day to stop for a minute and tune into whatever the Holy Spirit is doing in and around you.

  1. Surrender

Getting to know the Holy Spirit and learning to recognise his voice is wonderful, but if we are serious about walking his road and keeping in step with him, then we have to choose to actively follow him. To follow him wherever he might lead us. Being filled with the Spirit is more than just a warm fuzzy feeling; it’s about complete surrender and dependency.

Jesus modelled this life of dependency on the Spirit; he modelled for us what it looks like to be completely led by, surrendered to, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not just filled with the Spirit, but chose to be led by the Spirit, and it’s the same journey for us. It’s the daily choice to follow the Spirit and depend on him. Are we letting him be in control and change our agenda if he so wishes?

A practical step: as you start your day ask the Holy Spirit to be in the driving seat of your life and picture yourself handing him the car keys.

 

  1. Have a mindset of overflow and abundance

In order to keep in step with the Spirit we need our minds to be thinking in line with scripture and live in the incredible truth that we are children of overflow and abundance. The Holy Spirit is not dripped or drizzled, but poured out upon us. When it comes to him and his presence we can eagerly await the limitless generosity of heaven:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

We can never have too much of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can have too much of lots of good things – food, wine, even water – but there is never ‘too much’ of the Holy Spirit. There are no toxic levels of his presence. It is only our own narrow expectations that limit his presence and power in our lives.

A practical step: give thanks every day that your heavenly Father has given you his Spirit and be expectant for more.

As you look ahead to 2017 what might it look like for you to more intentionally keep in step with the Spirit and walk his road?

Prophecy Night at Wadsley

We know that many of you appreciate hearing about practical ways to encourage and release people into the prophetic. For this blog, Lucy, our intern, is going to share about a prophetic event that she ran last night at her church…

A little bit about my church:

My church is called Wadsley Parish Church; it has about 70 people (and growing!) and is part of the Church of England. My old youth leader from St Thomas’ Philadelphia recently became the vicar there and he asked 10 people to move with him and share all we’ve learnt from St Thomas’ these past few years. Despite only being there 3 months, it already feels like home and I feel so free and welcome. In terms of the prophetic, there’s a lot more going on than there seems on the surface, and there are definitely a lot of people that are open to what Holy Spirit has in store, even if they don’t publicise it.

Why I wanted to run a prophetic night:

After being part of St Thomas’ for 10 years, I have been raised up in the prophetic and had a chance to work out what prophecy looks like in my life. I’ve been to prophetic events and loved them, but I’ve never had the chance to run one myself, since there were always other people to head them up. Coming to Wadsley, I saw that there was both space and hunger for prophecy, so I figured I may as well run a prophecy evening and see how it goes!

The aim of the night:

One of the most inspiring things at Wadsley is seeing how everyone is so quick to serve and be God’s hands and feet. However, sometimes it’s really important to take a step back and rest in whom God is, and who we are in Him. My aim for the evening was to have a place where people could come, rest, be restored, and tune into what God is saying in an unpressurised environment.

What I actually did:

I wanted the night to be accessible to everyone, so I tried to find activations that allowed people to engage at whatever level they wanted. This is what the night ended up looking like…
1. Firstly, we started off with worship and praising God; resetting our gaze on Jesus.
2. I then put on a quiet CD and read out passages in the Bible, rereading and stressing parts Holy Spirit highlighted to me. Everyone soaked and simply rested in God’s truths.
3. After that, I handed out pens and paper, and we wrote out a letter of thankfulness to God. The letter started “Jesus, I am thankful for…”
After we wrote that, I asked people to listen to God, and then write His reply to our own letter. I asked the question, “Jesus, what are you saying to me?” and then people wrote, in 1st person, God’s reply.
4. Finally, before the event I had printed off lots of pictures of nature that I found on the Internet. I spread the pictures out on the floor, and put people into pairs. I invited people to quietly look at all the pictures, and then ask God which picture He wanted them to give to their partner. They then did this along with a little explanation as to why they chose that picture and what they thought God was saying.

Here are some of the pictures I printed off and used…

Initial feedback from the event:

In the end, about 10 people came, which in perspective is one seventh of the church… Not bad considering I did an awful job at publicising it! I haven’t had a good chance to ask people’s thoughts on the evening in depth as it only happened yesterday, but as everyone left they all seemed really grateful to have time to rest and listen to God. Some of the older generation commented on really loving the Bible reading and soaking time.

My thoughts on how the night went: 

Personally, the most encouraging part of the night was the last activation. Watching everyone prophesy over each other and share what they felt God was saying struck a really deep part of my heart. Hearing God for ourselves is amazing, and I love listening to what He wants to say to me. Yet I find that when we step out and speak His truth into each other’s lives, we manifest the most powerful part of God- we manifest His voice. We aren’t just listening to His voice; we’re speaking His voice. So for me, I loved watching that take place. It was such a simple exercise, and so easy to do, but God spoke so powerfully through it.

Tips and lessons learnt:

My biggest learning curve was to realise that this night had nothing to do with me. Yes, I was running it, so in that way I had a responsibility, but it was 100% up to God to show up. Realising and accepting that was equally humbling and freeing!
Looking back in terms of practicalities, I would have publicised the night a lot better than I did: making posters; giving notices in church; just making sure everyone knew about it. I opened this night up to the whole church, but it worked perfectly with 10 people and so would easily work within a small group or a missional community.
Finally, I found that releasing people to engage at their own level made the night so much more accessible and peaceful. Of course, there is a time to press in and stretch ourselves, but this night wasn’t about that, it was about resting and reconnecting with God.

 

We hope that Lucy’s experience has encouraged, inspired, and challenged you to step out in the prophetic in your own churches and communities!

Many blessings from all of us at Accessible Prophecy.

 

Disqualified?

Our blog this month is written by Lucy Fardon who is part of the Accessible Prophecy team here in Sheffield.

‘“O Sovereign Lord” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”’ Jeremiah 1:7

I remember when I first read this line in the Bible. I immediately grabbed my blue highlighter pen; scribbling and underlining what summed up in a sentence a thought that had gnawed at me for a good many years. In my mind, my juvenile status limited me entirely when it came to speaking out what I thought God was saying. After all, He is 100% definitely and without a doubt going to speak to someone older and wiser and a lot more mature than me. Isn’t He?

I grew up in a lovely church, surrounded by a bucket load of lovely people all of whom encouraged me in my walk with Jesus and the adventure of learning to hear His voice. Therefore, as you can imagine, I’m struggling to see where and when this idea of ‘being too young for use’ crept into my heart. But regardless, it was there. The more I thought about it, the more I overthought it, and the more I overthought it, the more it dominated my vision, until I was convinced that if I ever dared to speak a prophetic word, I’d humiliate myself. It was basically the church version of the ‘get-to-school-with-no-trousers-on’ nightmare.

Anyway, back to Jeremiah. So as I’m sure you’re all aware, Jeremiah was one of the major Old Testament prophets, writing both Jeremiah and Lamentations. His prophetic ministry extended over 40 years, spanning the lives of five kings, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah, and the destruction of the Holy Temple- pretty hefty stuff to say the least. It is believed that when God first called him, he was 16. Sixteen! No wonder he felt inadequate. Yet God doesn’t let him stay in this inadequacy. Rather, He leads Jeremiah out of his doubts, in a practical and simple way.

What I love most about God’s response to Jeremiah is this kind, slow, parent-like nature in which He explains it to him.

“Look, Jeremiah. What do you see?”

“I see a branch from an almond tree”

“That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.” Jeremiah 1:11-12

There is no complicated theology or complex theories, Jeremiah just looks out and names the first thing he sees- a branch. I always imagine a father and son from this dialogue, it’s such a lovely demonstration of a dad teaching his son how to look deeper. Step by step God takes what’s in front of Jeremiah and tells him what it means. The word for ‘almond tree’ written in Hebrew is almost identical to the Hebrew word meaning ‘my word will be fulfilled’. As Jeremiah steps out of his comfort zone and tunes into God’s voice, God affirms what he has heard is true, “That’s right”. Continually Jeremiah is told, “Do not be afraid of them” (vs 8 & 17), “I have made you strong” (vs 18), “For I am with you, and I will take care of you” (vs 19). To God, age was regardless. Jeremiah was willing to take leaps of trust, no matter how big or small, and so His heart was ready for God to use.

Now of course not everyone is going to have struggles with age. However, I think we can all fall into the trap of disqualifying ourselves from hearing God’s voice in one way or another. Maybe you doubt your ability to hear accurately, or perhaps you doubt God would even want to speak to you in the first place. But like most good and true things, prophecy at times can be something we must fight to take hold of. The enemy is all too aware of the freedom you will bring when you speak aloud the Truth, and so he works on trying to make those doubts louder than God’s voice. The best way I’ve found to silence the enemy in this situation is to work out what he’s saying. What are the lies you’re being told? Because once you know the lies, you can recognise them every time they come up, and you can replace them with a truth. “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed”, Proverbs 12:19.

God is true and He is powerful, as is His word. If we go back to Jeremiah, when God asked him what he saw, God knew that Jeremiah’s eyes were fixed on Him hence why Jeremiah could interpret reality through heavenly eyes. Take your eyes off God for a moment and the perspective is shifted from a heavenly reality to an earthly reality, and when it comes to hearing God’s voice that shift makes an enormous difference. The more you see yourself as heaven does- as God’s kid- the more your age, gender, past mistakes, income, experience and status all fade.

So I challenge you:
What is making you doubt God’s calling? Be it age, gender, status etc.
What is God saying in response to this doubt?
Finally, what do you see? Take a look out of your office, car, or bedroom window- what do you see?